Review of Jenny Nimmo's 'Children of the Red King' series
Jenny Nimmo's Charlie Bone Series
Reviewed by Debra Ross
If your child has finished all six Harry Potters and is champing at the bit until July 21, 2007 when the seventh and final book will be published, I have found another series that your kids will enjoy: The "Charlie Bone" series, Children of the Red King by Jenny Nimmo (published by Scholastic Books).
Nimmo is another British author who, in this series, writes about kids with magic talents at a boarding school. Sounds familiar, but the Charlie Bone series is quite different from Harry Potter on most other dimensions. Charlie Bone is 11-12 in this series, which is simultaneously is a bit psychologically darker than Harry Potter, and has more subtle humor and fewer gags. It's also somewhat less "fantastic" than Harry Potter: It has fewer monsters and the like, and it also takes place in a real-world context. One of the reasons it's so dark is due to the fact that the characters aren't really cartoonish, as they are in Harry -- they're real people, and the fact that one of the most evil of them all is Charlie's own grandmother can make it a little unnerving.
Most of the commenters on the Charlie Bone page on the Scholastic web site were 11-to-13-year-olds, but my two kids (ages 6 and 7) are LOVING the books on unabridged CD. They're read by Simon Russell Beale, who is amazing--the range of voices he's able to portray is nothing short of remarkable. The audiobook CDs (as well as regular books) are at various libraries in Monroe County, so you might want to reserve a copy. I also noticed a beautiful set of hardcovers in the series at the Pittsford Barnes & Noble.
Like Harry Potter, this series is not just for kids, by any means. My husband David and I are absolutely engaged in this set of books; the four of us listen to a chapter every night at bedtime, and David makes us catch him up with what we hear in the car during the day. Definitely go in order, starting with Midnight for Charlie Bone. The sixth book in the series, Charlie Bone and the Beast (in the U.K. the title is Charlie Bone and the Wilderness Wolf), is being released June 4, 2007.
I find Nimmo a better writer than Rowling, but the kids don't notice the subtleties that I do--they're mostly enjoying the stories. We just finished Book 5, The Hidden King. In the midst of our web searching to find out the exact release date of Charlie Bone and the Beast, we came upon a great web site for Charlie Bone aficionados: Charlie-Bone.com. It is a neat interactive web game based on a map of Charlie's city. My kids spent hours playing it yesterday. It's a lot more fun, though, if you've read the books, because there are references to the stories all over the place. And in Ingledew's Bookstore, you can write to Jenny Nimmo herself!
©2007, Debra Ross